Turkey and the EU Commission meet today to start negotiations on data sharing with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) in line with the 2016 refugee deal between Brussels and Ankara that stipulated 72 benchmarks for Turkish citizens' visa liberalization.
"There are only six criteria left to be fulfilled. Consultations and negotiations with the EU are ongoing with an aim to fulfill the remaining criteria," Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yavuz Selim Kıran said yesterday. Kıran underscored that visa liberalization is a right of Turkish citizens stemming from EU law and added that they will continue to work towards implementing this right. Pointing out that the EU has not upheld some of its commitments laid down in the refugee deal, Kıran stated that they will ensure the fulfillment of all the promises made by the EU.
Turkey and the EU signed an agreement in 2016, to solve Europe's most pressing problem, the influx of refugees to the bloc. The agreement foresees that in exchange for Turkey stemming the refugee flow to Europe, the EU would pay Turkey 6 billion euros in financial aid to improve the living conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The union also pledged to accelerate Ankara's EU membership process by opening five chapters and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals in the Schengen area, provided that Ankara fulfills a list of 72 criteria set by Brussels.
Turkey fulfilled 66 criteria and has been working towards the remaining six regulations including, a legal cooperation agreement with EU member countries and reviewing anti-terrorism legislation. Yet, the EU has not taken tangible steps so far to implement its promises as negotiations near to an end. In relation to Turkey's progress, European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Wednesday that Turkish officials were very determined to complete them all in the shortest time possible. Avramopoulos stated that Turkey will continue to remain a strategic partner of the EU, underlining the cooperation between Ankara and Brussels on the fight against terrorism.
Recently, Turkey and the EU have both signaled moves toward a period of normalization in ties that were strained following the 2016 coup attempt, stepping up contacts between officials and the stalled accession talks of Turkey.
Accordingly, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and EU Council President Donald Tusk met in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna on March 26, expressing their readiness to keep up the dialogue and consultations. The fourth meeting Reform Action Group (RAG) was also held on Aug. 29 in Ankara after a three-year break in a bid to mend ties.
Most recently, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs, Faruk Kaymakçı participated in a meeting of the Turkey-EU Association Committee on Wednesday. "I expressed Turkey's expectations from the EU regarding accession negotiations, visa liberalization, an update of Customs Union, financial cooperation, migration, counterterrorism, transport and energy to move forward Turkey-EU relations," he wrote on Wednesday on his official Twitter account.
The high-level meetings, especially on energy, transport and the economy, are also expected to be intensified in the upcoming period, while a summit similar to the meeting in Varna is planned to be organized following the European Parliament elections in May.